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Monday, January 31, 2011

Michael Waltrip Book Review: A Cathartic Experience For All of Us

Imagine if after years of failure, you finally break through and achieve one of the greatest successes your profession has to offer. But you can’t really celebrate that success because the person who made your achievement possible died helping make it happen.

It sounds like something out of Hollywood, but unfortunately, it actually did happen to someone. And now that someone, Michael Waltrip, is finally sharing the details of his triumphant and tragic day at Daytona nearly 10 years ago.

“In the Blink of an Eye: Dale, Daytona and the Day That Changed Everything” takes us through the events of February 18, 2001—the day Dale Earnhardt died—as they happened. It gets a little hard to read as you experience Waltrip’s joy, knowing what’s coming. And Waltrip doesn’t pull any punches sharing all of his feelings about Earnhardt’s death and his own life afterward. Anyone who has ever lost someone close to them will completely understand.

But the book is about more than just the events of that day. It’s also Waltrip’s story of how he got into racing and the people who helped him out along the way—including the King, Richard Petty. Waltrip is very honest about his mistakes and no one needs to remind him about his 0-463 record before that Daytona win. He’s quite honest about that as well.

The good news is that Waltrip doesn’t get bogged down by it. Instead, he focuses as much as he can on the positive as the book moves along at a pretty brisk—but entertaining—pace. And when he gets to that day, you can almost feel the catharsis as he was writing. Grief, anger and guilt all come out on each page. I have to believe it will be a catharsis for Earnhardt fans as well—especially since it gives them such an inside look at the driver they loved.

The book ends on an optimistic note as Michael Waltrip Racing finally starts putting the pieces together after an extremely rocky start.

At only 240 pages, “Blink” is a fairly quick read, so you are left with a few questions by the end. But considering everything Waltrip puts on the pages, you can’t really blame him for wanting to keep some things to himself. And that always leaves room for another book, which would be more than welcome.

“Blink” is not just a must-read for Waltrip and Earnhardt fans, it’s a must-read for all NASCAR fans. That day truly did change everything for us. And this book may very well be the cathartic experience we have all needed.

“In the Blink of an Eye: Dale, Daytona and the Day That Changed Everything” is available Tuesday, February 1st.

Photo Credit: Hyperion